A brief note on the Reddy community of Andhra Pradesh
by v ramchandra rao
Obviously this is just an incomplete summary, please share info on the subject...
The largest single community grouping in Andhra Pradesh today is of the Reddi community. The name is also written in India in roman characters as Reddy. (No connection to irish reddys).They are found all over Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring states. In Andhra Pradesh, the Reddis are considered traditional village headmen. The duties of headmen included the collection of tax, guarding the village and basically representing the village in dealing with outsiders or even the government. Physically they are very well built and strong, 'solid farmer stock' according to some english observers, and they retain a residual military -aristocratic tradition. (In short they are upper caste). Several members of the community are very wealthy landowners and businessmen, but most are small farmers. In most areas of Andhra Pradesh, in the small villages it is the Reddi who speaks authoritatively on behalf of the village: they are the traditional "leaders" of the village. But this is changing fast. Younger members are losing interest in living in rural areas and striking out to work in towns ...even to the USA.
There are various sects/clans among the reddis. The ones I could get some details about are the Panta reddis, including the Velanadu , Paakanadu and Motati Reddis ( these are old geographical areas) i.e. the Krishna-Guntur , Nellore and Chittoor Reddis and upland area. In Telangana there are the the Keti Reddis, There are other subdivisions but I am still collecting information.
According to manu, the four varna grouping (loosely called caste) brahman-kshatriya-vaisya-sudra are all aryan. They differ in their duties, rights etc but are ALL 100% arya according to manu. (the rest of you fallen aryans dont figure ;-)
Roots of the Reddis:
The Reddis do not constitute a ethnic group, really. There are several strands which go to make the Reddis of today. They appear to be basically Deccan plateau inhabitants, which includes Maharashtra, karnataka and Andhra of today. Another point to note, in several areas the term Reddi was treated as a sort of title for anyone who was appointed as village headman. Usually this meant a soldier, who got along fine with the other headmen. Gradually the descendants would be absorbed into the larger Reddi grouping.
The earliest reference we have to anyone resembling the Reddis are the Rathis and the Maha rathis before 200 BC. These kings ruled over small principalities in the Deccan plateau area of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra before the Satavahanas and mauryas. They have left coins in northern Andhra Pradesh, also in Kurnool district, and near Pune etc. The coins are found in the levels between the megalithic and satavahana levels in excavations. The term Rathi might refer to "one riding a chariot" (Ratha=horse drawn chariot in prakrit and old sanskrit). A grander Rathi king might be called Maha rathi. Actually this "Rathi" can be traced directly to the people riding horse drawn chariot during the time of the rgveda and avesta ( 'rathaesthar' in avestan), but I dont have any specific evidence linking today's Reddis so far back in time. Could be some connection, of course.
Some scholars trace "ratthi" to mauryan governor title raTThi ~rashtri. But I don't think so: in that case you'd expect to see these names elsewhere in the Mauryan empire, not just in west India. And those who want more speculation and still older connections, try this--there was a region to the west of India called ARATTA. Maybe this later became m'aratta and ratta and reddi eventually.
The Satavahanas intermarried with the maharathis. Sri Satakarni married Naaganika Devi, daughter of a maha rathi.(221 -198 BC). The Satavahanas ruled over Malwa Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat as well and clashed with the Sakas -Pahlavas (scythians and pallavas) but eventually intermarried with them. The Deccan was covered with thick forests, only scattered areas were under agriculture, and that too likely slash and burn primitive agriculture. Castes and communities were still forming. Even feudalism hadn't really developed in those days, the tribal structure was slowly dissolving with the influence of Buddhism. So one shouldn't take the caste thing too seriously.
The next prominent mention of the Reddis seems to be during the rise of the Rashtrakutas. The Reddis are also called raTThi, raddi and raTTodi in old inscriptions dating back to the 9th century. The Rashtrakuta soldiers were among the elite troops of the Badami Chalukyas: they founded an empire after the Badami chalukyas faded from the scene. The Rashtrakutas expanded from their native Deccan plateau all the way to Kannauj. Over a century or so, they expelled the Gurjara pratiharas from Ujjain, then Gujarat and further attacked them in Kannauj. A section of the Rashtrakutas later became the well known rathodis, who later are found as one of the Rajput clans. Incidentally the famous Pramaras also are descended from the deccan Rashtrakutas.
After the Rashtrakuta empire faded away we find interesting inscriptions of the succeeding Kalyani Chalukyas in Andhra Pradesh, where Reddis are mentioned (900 AD). They were soldiers appointed as headmen of villages in Medak district by the kalyani Chalukyas. I've put a pic and rough translation of the inscription, see link below for more details.
The Reddis in the Telangana region were active in the kakatiya kingdom. (AD 1000-1223). They were knights and barons and subordinate kings who ruled regions, in turn they had to pay taxes/ a part of the plunder and organise troops for campaigns. Several large dams and lakes and large sized wells were constructed by the reddis of the time, and they still serve their purpose as planned a thousand years ago.
After the kakatiya kingdom broke up, many Reddis migrated to coastal Andhra---Addanki and Kondaveedu, and later Rajahmundry on the Godavari and founded their own independent kingdoms which flourished between 1325-1448 AD. Komati Prolaya Vemareddy , son of Komati Prola reddy founded this kingdom . There are foolish elaborate explanations of why the name Komdi or Komati was their surname (apart from silly fake legends, there is an attempt to discover some "jain goddess".)One actual very simple reason, which sems to have escaped scholars, is Komdi or Komda is a name of a tribal deity Kumara, Kumra, Kartikeya, Mayura, Mora, Velan, Murugan--- the warlike son of Siva. A merchant community called komati also is derived from this ancient name, while they have very little to do with reddis. There is one more derivation --from Kumuda , Khumdi, Cimmerian which also rings true.
While the area and extent may not have been large, these Reddi Raja states are historically significant because Telugu literature got a strong impetus. Vemareddi has left many inscriptions, the well preserved ones detailing the repairs he made to temples like Srisailam and Ahobilam and Drakshaaram.
During the Vijayanagar empire (roughly 1300 -1600 AD) too they were prominent especially in Rayalseema, where they became independent zamindars or landholders and were constantly engaged in clan feuding. (the feuds continue to this day). The Rayalseema reddis are closely related to the landlord Gowdas of karnataka and the Reddiars of Tamilnad. There are also a few Reddi principalities which managed to survive independently between large warring states, in Mahabubnagar district (Old Palamoor) like Gadwal and Wanaparthi. The Reddis around these areas have a tradition they are descended from ancient Chalukya ancestors.
Reddis are also prominent in Nellore and Chittoor district also. ---(some claim they are descended from pallava ancestors, but proof is lacking). In these areas, during British times they often visited closeby Madras, took to modern education in the Madras presidency, and also joined the military.
In the Golkonda region, all during the Turkish rule and recent Nizams too , the Reddis continued to be headmen, village policemen and tax collectors and farmers. The larger Reddi landlords were styled as Desais and Doras. ( and continued their bitter nine-hundred year old rivalry with the Velamas, another feudal clan. This rivalry also exists to this day in rural areas). Several Reddis were noblemen during the Nizams time, too.
There does not seem to be any ethnic /social connection between the plains Reddis and the tribal Kondareddi of the Godavari hills.
The Reddis of all the various regions mentioned have different traditions and notions and do not seem to have very much in common with each other : they have more in common with other communities of their regions. Given the background one would expect they are all feudal reactionary upper caste bigots : not so, they were prominent in reform activities too. In medieval times they were enthusisatic backers of Saivite and Vaishnavite reform movements too. In south coastal areas --guntur, for instance--- reddis intermarried with Brahmins and others under the influence of saivite reformers. In Telangana area they used to wed girls from other communities but the offspring wouldn't bear the clan name. In north Andhra Pradesh, during the communist-led Telangana people's movement against the feudal Nizam state in the 1940's, there were many comrades from a Reddy background. Eventually, a large number of Reddis went into business especially construction and films and have made a name for themselves in the field. --Nagi reddi , etc. Don't forget Kalabandhu Subbiramireddy. In recent times they are prominent in the world pharmaceutical industry too, like Dr Anji Reddy. Dr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was a President of India. (etc etc, many others too long to list. Generally they are embarrassed if listed.)Taken as a whole, they are healthy, strong, cheerful, generally smiling, broadminded, and impulsively generous. They are somewhat conservative, but not really clannish: managing soldiers or running a village or district or kingdom efficiently means you have to take along everybody with you: the feudal man management skills honed over the centuries are still useful.
Socially overall, it appears today their outlook or watchword is " status quo" or 'slow gradual change is best'. Womenfolk are not as independent minded as in some other communities. In politics they are usually backers of the Congress : they were not well represented in the Telugu Desam party which was in power until recently. Now, the Reddis are back with a bang.
While the older generation of Reddis had a feeling for the "land" and flair for farming, and leadership of the villages, nowadays there is a rapid change in rural areas: the younger Reddis are losing interest in rural life (not just farming, but the ramifications like district politics) and migrating to the cities, becoming urban professionals and businessmen. Most younger Reddis I recently asked expressed distaste for living much longer in their villages (?--I think this is due to the social churning going on at a very rapid pace all over India currently, and what they perceive as loss of positions of respect and privilege. They said they would rather live in medium sized towns or cities..or even abroad). Fairly large numbers have migrated to the USA. They are prominent in Telugu organisations in the USA. Australia and NZ also seem to be attracting Reddis.
Take a look at an ancient inscription mentioning Reddis
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© by v ramchandra rao.